49ers Opponent Breakdown: Los Angeles Rams

Nicholas Cothrel

Divisional matchups often end up being a split against one another. However, the 49ers were able to come away with both victories over the Rams in 201, and 2020 might be no different. 

The 49ers are looking to get back into the promised land of reaching the Super Bowl once again and the Rams appear they're resetting the complexity of their roster with cap info-structure in mind. 

Here is the sixth installment of the 49ers opponent breakdown as they face off against the Los Angeles Rams in Weeks 6 and 12:

2019 Record: 9-7, Third place in NFC West

Meetings with 49ers: 

Week 6: Rams loss, 20-7

Week 16: Rams loss, 34-31

2020 Season in Review: Coming off a Super Bowl loss to end the 2018 season against the Patriots, the Rams opened the new year with lofty expectations of making another trip to the Super Bowl. The Rams recorded victories in the team's first three games, but after their 3-0 start, three consecutive losses came to follow. For a team whose roster contains plenty of star power, it was an underachieving year for the Rams, finishing 9-7 — the first time they've missed a playoff berth since 2016.

Key Additions: DE Leonard Floyd, DT A'Shawn Robinson

With the Rams having minimal wiggle room until they're submerged up against the cap, the team couldn't be very active this offseason. As a result, they signed just two key pieces in free agency, adding veterans Leonard Floyd and A'Shawn Robinson to occupy the defensive line. 

Floyd, a former first-round pick of the Bears, will likely be assigned to rush the passer the majority of the time, but has in the past dropped back in coverage as an outside backer. Adding extra depth to the interior alignment of their defensive line, the Rams singed Robinson, a former rotational player and sometimes starter for the Lions, who tallied 172 tackles over four seasons in Detroit. 

Key Departures: RB Todd Gurley, WR Brandin Cooks, DE Dante Fowler Jr., LB Cory Littleton

Since the Rams went spend-happy leading up to the 2018 season, they've been strapped for cash. They did appear in Super Bowl LIII, but since then, they've experienced young players who've outgrown their contracts and veteran players who no longer play to the same level in which their contracts indicate.  

The team has lost four major pieces who all played extensive roles over the last two seasons. Todd Gurley was once the best running back in the game, but lingering knee injuries have derailed his availability, leaving the team with no other option but to cut him. Brandin Cooks is a productive wide receiver, but given the Rams' current finances, it was in their best interest to trade him and get his expensive contract off the books. Dante Fowler Jr. posted a career-high 11.5 sacks in 2019 prior to becoming an unrestricted free agent and has since then signed with the Atlanta Falcons. Cory Littleton is regarded across the NFL as one of the better coverage linebackers and he wound up agreeing to a contract with the Las Vegas Raiders as he too hit the free-agent market.

Notable 2020 Draft Picks: RB Cam Akers, WR Van Jefferson

When Gurley was unable to carry the ball with regularity due to his health status, the Rams struggled to move the football. In spite of that, the Rams added former Florida State rusher, Cam Akers. He'll be asked to potentially become their new bell-cow back of the future with Malcolm Brown and Darrell Henderson also getting touches out of the backfield. 

The Rams still possess two quality wide receivers -- Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods. But the loss of Cooks on the outside does weaken the depth of the position. On day two of the NFL Draft, the Rams added Florida pass-catcher Van Jefferson. The versatile pass-catcher has pristine route-running to shake his opponents and can play in the slot or along the boundary. 

Prognosis:

Given the talent that departed this offseason, the Rams are likely to take a step back from their 9-7 record in 2019. The NFC West could be one of the better divisions in football with the 49ers, Seahawks and Cardinals all having playoff aspirations, which could be difficult to overcome. When quarterback Jared Goff had ample time in the pocket on passing downs and a productive rusher, the Rams offense fully clicked. A lot may hinge on the legs of their new rookie running back to see where he can take their ground game moving forward. You could expect the Rams to finish somewhere near a .500 winning percentage in 2020. 

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